Episode 73

May 04, 2024


#73 | Dr. Tiffany Pankow | How to Become Blue Zone-Friendly

Hosted by

Tony Siebers Bina Colman
#73 | Dr. Tiffany Pankow | How to Become Blue Zone-Friendly
Parent Projects - Aging In America
#73 | Dr. Tiffany Pankow | How to Become Blue Zone-Friendly

May 04 2024 | 00:25:44


Show Notes

Dr. Tiffany Pankow, MD, is a family medicine specialist in Phoenix, AZ, and has over 23 years of experience in the medical field. She graduated from the University of Virginia, main campus, in 2000. Dr. Pankow is also chief of caregiver wellness and patient experience for HonorHealth, one of Arizona’s largest nonprofit healthcare systems serving a population of five million people in the greater Phoenix metropolitan area.
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Episode Transcript

[00:00:06] Speaker A: Hi, and welcome to Aging in America. I am your host, Bena Coleman, and this podcast is brought to you through parent projects. Maybe you have heard or seen of the special on Netflix called Secrets of the Blue Zone, or maybe you actually don't know what a blue zone is. But today we have a wonderful guest in doctor Pankow. She is here in the Scottsdale Phoenix Valley. She is a doctor that is working with the Blue Zone project as the initiative to make this area blue zone and blue zone friendly and to give tips and tricks to anybody, no matter where they live, to use the blue Zone principles in their everyday life. So let's welcome doctor Panko into the guest, into the show. Excuse me. [00:00:48] Speaker B: Hello. Thank you. It's great to be here. [00:00:53] Speaker A: I think this topic is so interesting. I think we're gonna dive into a lot of information, but right off the bat, I would love for people to learn more about you. Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background. [00:01:05] Speaker B: Sure. So I'm a family medicine physician by training, and my current role is chief of caregiver wellness and patient experience at Honor Health, which is a community hospital system here in the Scottsdale, Phoenix area. And I've had a passion for prevention and lifestyle and how we can really help treat and prevent chronic disease in our communities. So that's been sort of my, you know, my background. I'm a native here of Arizona, so my roots run deep in the community, and anything we can do to help improve our community really resonates with me. [00:01:41] Speaker A: I love everything you said. I'm a native as well, so I really understand what you are saying about that and how you want to help the area. I think that's great. I also have to tell you, I think it's a very cool title. I am a gerontologist, and I'm always working on ways to deal with caregiver burnout. So I think it's really cool that that's what you are as well. And then really, because this is about blue zones. Can you just start today's conversation by telling us what a blue zone is for those who don't know? [00:02:10] Speaker B: Absolutely. So the blue zones research was really started by Dan Butner, who was a national Geographic journalist who had an interest in why certain areas around the world, people lived longer and healthier lives. So he started out in Japan researching why this was why did people in Okinawa, Japan, live so long and live so healthy? So he found some principles there and started looking around the world to see where else were communities that people lived long and healthy lives. And he came up with, through the research, five key areas around the world that shared some key principles. We now call them the power nine. And funny story about how the blue zones name was started. They were kind of taking the map of the world and circling areas on the map that they saw as these hotspots of health and longevity, and they circled them in a blue marker, and so they got to calling them blue zones. And so that's a question that's come up a lot. And it was really just kind of a funny coincidence of using a blue pen and circling these places on the map. Oh, my gosh. [00:03:15] Speaker A: I would never have guessed that. [00:03:17] Speaker B: Yeah. So, and then the other, the other. And the interesting thing about the blue zones is that they really are all over the world, so it's not just one part of the world or one culture. So Japan, Greece, Italy, Loma Linda, California, and Costa Rica. So, really a broad spectrum across the world and across different, different cultures. [00:03:36] Speaker A: That is amazing. What a fun and great thing this man has found and discovered, and now we can all use it. Why are they so important, the blue zones? [00:03:48] Speaker B: So I think the blue zones are so important, and the principles that were discovered within the blue zones, so we call them the power nine, they're sort of broken up into four different aspects. And, you know, the first one is to move naturally. The second area is, are we eating wisely? The third one is, do we have the sort of right outlook in our life? And then the last one is around connection, and we can kind of dive into a little bit more of those. Of what those principles are. But we know all these principles help support our health. And unfortunately, we are seeing nationwide challenges to our health. So we're seeing that our lifestyle can impact up to 90% of the chronic diseases that we are seeing out there. We also know that loneliness is. Is a huge problem in this country. Our surgeon general has been talking about the impact of loneliness, and it's really shocking to me to see that loneliness can have the same impact on our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. And it also can have a greater impact than obesity or hypertension in terms of our health outcomes. So this is kind of some of the why I think that we need to do something in our communities to impact the health. We're also seeing that our younger generations are less happy than older generations. Our young people are really struggling. And my hope is that some of the principles of this power nine and the principles of the blue zones may be able to have an impact on those. [00:05:23] Speaker A: I feel like you just gave us so much great information. Not all positive, but we're working on it with the blue zone. I really, as a gerontologist, said, the loneliness thing really hits close to home. And it really makes me sad because it is a true fact that, and I think we all know the pandemic didn't help, but there's just so many elderly that are just so lonely. So it is very interesting as having two young kids myself. It makes me very sad as well that they are not as a happy generation, but I know we can work on it. So I cannot wait to hear about that. I have to assume some of it has to do with technology, but you'll let me know if I'm wrong. And then you've touched on a little bit, but can you dive a little more into the physical and emotional benefits of being in a blue zone? [00:06:15] Speaker B: Yes. I think the biggest thing about the blue zones is the community creates an environment that makes it conducive to make it easier to make some of these healthy choices. So it may be that you are able to walk more in groups with other people. You may be out and more active, like gardening or biking. Are we making our community safe for people to walk? Are we creating some of those and making it more accessible for people? It's the same thing in some of the other areas around the principles of the power nine. You know, we talk about, you know, specifically around the connection, and I think this is a big thing for, for our older population, is that sense of connection and that sense of belonging. And one of the key components is loved ones first. So connecting, keeping older folks closer and drawing them back in, that can be at places of worship. That's one area. Again, that can be a sense of belonging within a spiritual community, whatever that may be. It's connecting the different generations across the spectrum, you know, often in a place of worship, but it doesn't have to be. It could be in other community areas as well. So I think that's the big piece of it, is that it's the environment that makes it easier to make these choices. Do we have healthy fruits and vegetables in our schools? Are businesses providing some of these things? Are they maybe changing the vending machine that has sodas and candy and chips in it and providing healthier alternatives right there? So it's easy for people to make those choices. So it really is a community effort to make those healthy choices, the easier choices, and to make connection with each other easier. [00:08:03] Speaker A: Yeah, I love how you put that, because it is choices, but I also feel like, we all got to work together, so it's not always on that person. It is a community, like you said. So I love that. All right. And so there's these blue zones you mentioned. They're everywhere, not just where, you know, the big four ones that he started them. And how can people get involved to become a part of it or even just where to start if they're looking like they're resonating a lot with what you're saying? [00:08:35] Speaker B: Yes, I think there's quite a few places to get more information. You mentioned one of them, the Netflix series, you know, live to 100. You can find out more about the blue zones and what they mean. The blue Zones website. So bluezones.com has a lot of great information. There's vitality tests you can do yourself to kind of see how much you're living, some of the blue zones principles. So that's a place to get involved. And right now, there's some blue zone efforts in over 70 communities around the country. So they're out there. And so those are a couple of good places just to get started to find out a little bit more information. There's also several books that you could get in the library that talk about the blue zones, provide blue zones recipes, and really sort of share what the blue zones communities are and how they've been created in other parts of the country. [00:09:24] Speaker A: Yeah. Again, I know we've touched on this, but the fact that this blue zone is just going to spread to and starting with 70 areas just in America is phenomenal for so many people out there. And everything you just touched on, we're going to add those to the show notes so that everyone can look there. And like you said, start with the vitality test or know what book to rent from the library. So thank you. You have mentioned something called the right outlook as one of the big topics. I am very curious, in your words, what that means and how it relates to the blue zone. [00:09:56] Speaker B: Yeah. So the right outlook talks about two of the power nine principles. So the first one is downshift. And this is really kind of, do you have a way to sort of release some of the stress? We know that there's a lot of stress in our daily lives, and we see that in healthcare and in other areas where people have struggled with burnout. So is there a way that you can really find a way to decompress and to take a little bit of a load off, whether it's meditation, whether it's going for a walk, whether it's connecting with friends, but really focusing on that ability to decompress and reduce our stress is one part of the right outlook. The second part has to do with creating a sense of purpose. And it came from two areas, particularly in the blue zones. One was from Japan, and it's the principle of ikigai, which the translation means your reason for getting up in the morning. And the other one is in Costa Rica, where they talk about the Plan de Vida, which is the plan of life. And it's really connecting to something that you feel strongly about what your values are and what brings you sort of meaning and joy in what you do. And so we know from studies that people that are connected to that sense of meaning and purpose live longer and are happier. We also know in the burnout literature, if people can do just a small percentage of their day focusing on those things that mean the most to them, it really helps to mitigate burnout and decrease stress. But we also know that reason, that passion, could be all different things. It could be that you love to garden, it could be your grandchildren, and that's your passion in your life, and it can change over the course of your life. So it doesn't mean that I was passionate about my work, and now that I'm retired, I don't have a passion anymore. You can pick up another passion, you can find something new to do, but we know that that really helps with people's fulfillment and feeling like they're getting a lot out of their lives. [00:12:02] Speaker A: You mentioned finding your meaning and your purpose, and I just want to say that it really is something I'm finding through all these podcasts that that's kind of the central thing for most people. And I agree with you, with the caregiver burnout, it's easier said than done to make sure you do all this, but having that main reason of your meaning and your purpose really keeps you on track. So I think that was really, really great advice. So thank you. And so we all want to make these changes. We're all interested in making these changes. What are the top couple of things you have seen that make the greatest impact when people are looking to do this, to make these changes? [00:12:42] Speaker B: So I think first, it's a little bit of reflection and kind of pausing to see where in your life you may want to make some of these changes if you're looking to do it alone. But I think right after that is I would encourage people not to go it alone. It's a big part of the zones to be connected with other people and to do some of this as a group. So I think a great place to start is maybe connecting with your family and talking about this and seeing how can we at home maybe make some of these changes and just start right there where you are. How do you make your environment in your home more conducive to some of these blue zones choices? So having fresh fruits and vegetables out where you can see them, taking out some of the sweetened beverages out of your refrigerator so you're not looking for that can of pop. Taking some of those salty snacks out and replacing it with a handful of nuts that we know is a healthier option. So I think starting within your local area is a great way to start and then finding other places in your community where you can get involved. We talked a little bit about the outlook. Volunteerism is another great way to sort of to get involved and get connected with others. If you want more information, there's. If you're the type of person who likes to have a plan in front of you, there is a blue zones challenge book that kind of lays out a four week plan. So if you say, oh, I'm that person, I need a plan. I need to check the boxes so that I know what to do and what steps to, to take next, that can be helpful for people as well. [00:14:13] Speaker A: You kind of nailed me on the head there. So I would love this idea of having this checklist. I think that is so great. I think, like you said, having those connections. So when you are presenting this idea to your family or friends, you're not just talking, you actually have something tangible. Can you talk about the four weeks? Because I think that's really important when starting this. [00:14:33] Speaker B: Yeah, I mean, I think the four weeks gives you, we know it takes time to change habits, so getting a set time of doing it, I think is really, really helpful. And then looking at around those power nine, there's ways throughout those four weeks to really start to incorporate all of those in your life. So a lot of it starts with just looking at your environment. And one of the first things is recommending a buddy to do this with because I think that can help you to get through the process within that, too, is kind of thinking about, as we talked about that sense of purpose. And sometimes that can help you as well to know, okay, why am I doing this? What am I striving for? And that can give you a goal. But, you know, there's, and I think that it doesn't have to be. As I talk to a lot of our employees and our caregivers and others in the community, small incremental steps sometimes are the best way to go because sometimes people try to make changes, and it's really hard to change everything all at once. Even though there's this great four week plan, even small changes can make a really big difference. [00:15:43] Speaker A: Yeah, I think that's it. I think that's it for a lot of things in life as well. So when you're making, like you said, these big changes, this is a whole new concept. It is good to start small. And I know you mentioned, but that four week plan book, you can buy it and then as well, you can get it from the library, correct? [00:16:01] Speaker B: Yeah, I'm sure that it's out there in libraries. I know it's available in lots of places, so you can certainly check that out. And, you know, there's also free information on thebluezones.com. There's newsletters that you can sign up to get, and all of that is free. So if you just want to learn more and get some tips from those newsletters, that can also be helpful. [00:16:21] Speaker A: Great. We do have a national or nationwide audience. We as in me and you, we are here in Phoenix. You do work for a system called the Honor Health system. It's a hospital system here. Can you talk to us a little bit about how honor health and you are really looking to make changes to make it a blue zone friendly environment? [00:16:45] Speaker B: Yeah. So honor Health is really committed to our community. You know, our mission is to improve the health and well being of those we serve, which is our community, the greater, you know, central metropolitan Phoenix area. But it also starts with our employees. And so we've made a big commitment both to helping support the community, but also to helping to make our hospitals and our clinics more blue zones friendly. So it's really a three year process and looking at a blueprint of the changes that we can make that help make our environment easier for our teams to make healthy choices. And I think that's a big part of what others can do nationwide is organizations that really are committed to their team members and want to make some of these healthy choices at work. We spend so much of our time and days at work that it's really important. That's a key component of our environment. The blue zones talks a lot about that, your radius of work and home. And we all kind of live, and usually we live and work within a 20 miles radius, give or take. And so that's the area that we are trying to focus on. And we're really trying to focus on that work component for our teams. [00:17:57] Speaker A: And I love the idea of it being this whole hospital group. You mentioned the employees, everyone being involved. I think it makes it, like you kind of said, the connection part. Everyone's doing it for the same purpose, which I'm sure helps a lot in that setting. [00:18:13] Speaker B: Yeah, I think. And we try to listen. One of the things I love about our organization is we really try to listen and solicit the feedback from our employees. So we did focus groups, we did surveys to kind of see what mattered to our employees as we're trying to make these changes, to see what resonates and what fits for, for them. [00:18:32] Speaker A: It's very, very cool to say it in any way. It's just a very cool program you're trying to grow and initiate here. So that's wonderful. We've covered a lot. I understand there is a lot that goes into the blue zones. Is there anything we haven't covered you want to share? [00:18:53] Speaker B: I think that one other piece of the blue zones that I like, and we talk about the eating wisely piece, is the plant slant with our food, and we didn't really talk too much about that. And then the 80% rule, which I really like both of those. So eating more fruits and vegetables, if you focus on just one thing in our diets, it would be just to eat more fruits and vegetables. That can make a huge, huge difference. It also is really good for our environment. So you think about it in two ways, that it is good for us and it's also good for the environment to eat more plants. And then the other piece is that 80% rule is kind of thinking about not eating to where we're so full all the time. And I think that can be a nice piece. We just didn't have a chance to, I think, touch on all of the power nine. So I just wanted to call out those two that we didn't touch on because those are two of my favorites. I tend to hijack the 80% rule a little bit to also say, if I can follow some of these recommendations 80% of the time, I'm probably making a huge difference, you know, in the work that I'm doing. [00:19:56] Speaker A: But it makes sense because you always hear the 80 20 rule no matter what you're doing, right? [00:20:01] Speaker B: 80, yeah. [00:20:02] Speaker A: Eat great 80% of the time. Have us cheat 20% of time. So it completely makes sense. I love this whole idea of getting more fruits and vegetables. Can you touch a little bit on the protein aspect if people are going to start eating more plants? Do you worry as a doctor they're not getting as much protein. [00:20:22] Speaker B: Yeah. So I think there are ways to get protein through plants. So one of the big things that they talk about is, are the use of lentils. So there's a lot of protein in lentils. Quinoa is also a good source of protein. But I don't think the blue zones you have to eliminate. You know, I'm not a vegan. I'm not saying people need to be a vegan or a vegetarian. I think it's just choosing the meats that you do have in terms of it being a smaller proportion so you can get some of that protein that you need. I personally am a big fan of the mediterranean diet, which also does have some fish and shellfish in it, and we know that that can be healthy. So there's a variety of different. It's just not as much meat in the blue zones as we in America often have. The other piece of it that we know is avoiding the processed meats. We know that that has been linked to unhealthy outcomes for folks. And so really limiting that processed meat. So I think it's choosing the meat that you do have carefully and wisely, I think, a little heavier on the fish. From my perspective. That's kind of what I see. I mean, I think there's a lot of controversy in all of the nutrition out there. If you look at the nutrition literature, there's some nuances that I think sometimes people can quibble over in the headlines, but I think that fundamentally, eating more fruits and vegetables, eating fewer processed foods, and limiting the types of uncertain meats that are processed, I think we all can agree on those, that even just making those fundamental changes can have a huge impact. [00:21:56] Speaker A: Yeah, I'm with you on all of it. It makes sense. So I can see how that could be an easy way to incorporate that step into your new routine. Here's a fun one before we kind of wrap up. It is the YNF five. Can you go into the wine f five? Because I'm sure people are wondering, can I drink and all that good stuff. [00:22:16] Speaker B: Yeah. So I think the idea around the wine at five is really a happy hour in the sense of a time to connect an end of the day and connecting with others at the end of the day. So I think it's less about alcohol. I don't recommend, you know, that if people are not drinking alcohol, that they need to go out and start drinking, and that's going to improve their longevity. So I'm often very careful about that. There are candidly some mixed in terms of there have been some studies that show that a little bit of wine, like one glass of wine, may be helpful for longevity. There's some, honestly, and I want to be truthful, there are some studies that say that discount that. So there's a little bit of both in that. But for me, the happy hour is much more about having that designated decompression time. And I think the other piece is limiting the amount of alcohol. So if you're going to use and choose to have some alcohol at a happy hour, you know, limiting the amount so that it's at a healthy amount of alcohol. So, you know, talking with your physician as well, I think is super important because there are some people who, you know, really shouldn't be having alcohol depending on their health conditions. So I think it's a really good thing that you're bringing up and discussing it. And in the way I talk about it, you can get together at happy hour and have a, have a sparkling water or have an iced tea and you still get the benefit of a happy hour. [00:23:41] Speaker A: Yeah, I think you are 100% correct if it's the connection you want people to do. Have a Diet Coke, have a sparkling water. So, yeah, that was a great piece of advice. [00:23:52] Speaker B: Yeah. [00:23:52] Speaker A: Well, listeners, this has been amazing, I think. Thank you, doctor Pankow. You have given us so much to think about. Like I said earlier, we're going to be adding all the links that she mentioned to our show notes, so make sure to check there as well. Follow us at parentprojects on all your favorite social media platforms and thank you again, Doctor Panko. It's been great having you on the show today. Thank you for sharing your time, talents and treasures with us. [00:24:18] Speaker B: It's been my pleasure. Thank you so much for having me. [00:24:26] Speaker C: Well, that's it for the team this week, and thanks for joining us. If you enjoy the content, remember to subscribe and share this episode on the app that you're using right now. Reviews and your comments, they really help us expand our reach as well as our perspectives. So if you have time, also drop us a note. Let us know how we're doing for tips and tools to clarify your parent project, simplify communication with your stakeholders, and verify the professionals that you choose. You can find us on YouTube, follow us on Instagram and Facebook. Thanks again for trusting us until our next episode. Behold and beheld. [00:24:58] Speaker D: Thank you for listening to this parent projects podcast production. To access our show notes, resources or forums, join us on your favorite social media platform or go to parentprojects.com this show is for informational and educational purposes only. Before making any decisions, consult a professional credential in your local area. This show is copyrighted by Family Media and Technology Group, Inc. And parent Projects, LLC. Written permissions must be granted before syndication or rebroadcast.

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